When is the best time to book a cruise? In the not so distance past, one could comfortably say six months prior to departure on most itineraries, but this is no longer the case. Popular itineraries and ships are being booked as far as 12-15 months in advance, with group bookings even further out to ensure availability.
Most small ship and river cruises are booked 9-12 months in advance. These ships are much smaller than their ocean counterparts, holding less than 200 passengers and therefore sell out more quickly. Themed cruises, which focus on wine, beer, art and cultural heritage tours, have grown in popularity and thus also sell out quickly.
Many ocean cruises are booking out a year in advance, especially popular, holiday, special event or limited availability itineraries. For example, Disney Alaska, departures out of San Francisco and itineraries that include the (British) Open are booked quickly. Many world cruises sell out within a couple of weeks being published.
Certainly there are destinations and itineraries with availability close to departure. The larger the ship, the greater the chance of availability, especially if your travel criteria is flexible and you live close to or can get to a port quickly. However, your ideal or preferred cabin, departure date and/or itinerary of choice probably will not be available. And keep in mind many cruise lines no longer discount last minute fares.
So start your planning (and booking) early to ensure a most wonderful cruise experience!
Laurie Marschall - Owner and Founder